emh – our experience with MMC and Building Better

Tim Wade, 03 November 2021

As one of the largest providers of affordable homes in the East Midlands, emh has over 20,000 properties in more than 40 local authority areas across the region.

In March 2021, emh agreed a deal to manufacture 42 modern methods of construction (MMC) homes in Nottinghamshire. Since then they have joined Building Better with the aim of scaling up their development of offsite homes. Their Development Director, Tim Wade, tells us about their drivers, their challenges and their plans for the future.

When did you first begin looking at MMC?

In 2018 we spoke to a building company about using fully manufactured bathroom pods for an extra care scheme. The pods were brought to site with tiling and a ceiling, and then craned in. Quality was a big driver for this project, and it was also quicker, cleaner and more efficient to use the pods.

After that we began a venture with ilke Homes to develop 42 turnkey volumetric homes in Beeston. I learnt a lot from the bathroom pod project, but this larger scheme will be a real test.

We joined Building Better because of their new framework. There is also safety in numbers - the more housing associations and local authorities that get involved with Building Better, the more efficiencies we can all make.

What issues around MMC are you currently looking at?

It will be interesting to see how we link up with our asset management team around MMC. For example, they can’t just go in and rip tiles off a wall if there’s a leak. There’s a careful handover that needs to be done and we need to consider how knowledge is retained in the business so people in property services and other teams are clear.

I’m currently working on an action plan to bring this knowledge into the business, so when the customer experience team take a call from a customer who lives in an MMC property saying there’s a leak, everyone is clear on what to do.

I’m also really interested in what MMC homes will be like to live in. We always survey new residents, but we’ll make a point of going back to people who’ve moved into factory-built properties and think about fresh ways to gather their feedback.

How many MMC homes are you planning to develop?

With our Strategic Partnerships Wave 2 bid being successful, 30% of the homes we build over the period of the programme will be MMC – that’s 525 properties. 50 of the 525 MMC homes we build will be manufactured to the Future Homes Standard, and importantly, 100 of the 525 will be over 55% Pre-Manufactured Value (PMV). PMV is a way of calculating the proportion of a building’s construction that takes place offsite or near-site.

What are your drivers behind MMC?

Efficiency and confidence on delivery time scales are key reasons. You are removing the weather factor. Quality is central too. In a factory environment it’s easier to do quality checks – the inspection process is live throughout production.

Sustainability is another driver. MMC homes are more energy efficient, not only in how they are constructed but in terms of the materials used. That’s one reason why Building Better appealed – all the homes you procure from their framework give greater thermal efficiency using fabric first methods.

Being part of a collective and pushing innovation forward in housing design and construction is also significant.

Why did you join Building Better?

Being part of the alliance gives us access to specialist advice on MMC. The procurement framework is the cherry on top and takes the hassle factor out. If there’s one thing that can slow a project down and force you to revisit your risk map, it’s complex procurement. You ask yourself, how am I going to procure this, is my procurement compliant, are the suppliers any good?

Building Better having an affiliation with the NHF gives the project kudos and there are some really good, registered providers involved.

What would you say to other housing providers thinking about joining Building Better?

Do it. There are so many challenges for the sector at the moment around construction. We’re weaning ourselves off gas, we’re talking about air source heat pumps, and we need practical solutions – like MMC - to tackle these issues.

To find out how Building Better can support your organisation with MMC, email Project Director, Trina Chakravati, or visit our Building Better page.